Over the weekend, Dove beauty products came under fire for a racist ad. In the ad, which was posted on Facebook, a Black woman takes off her shirt and becomes a white woman. The white woman then removes her shirt to become an Asian woman.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Twitter blew up with indignation. Many of the people operated off only two stills from the ad, which showed only the black woman becoming a white woman.
Now, the model from the video, Lola Ogunyemi, is speaking out. She penned an op-ed for The Guardian.
Ogunyemi starts her article by identifying that she has experienced society’s preference for lighter skin. She also acknowledged that the beauty industry has perpetuated this preference.
“I’ve grown up very aware of society’s opinion that dark-skinned people, especially women, would look better if our skin were lighter,” wrote Ogunyemi. I know that the beauty industry has fueled this opinion with its long history of presenting lighter, mixed-race or white models as the beauty standard.”
But this mindset, which she calls a “repressive narrative,” is the reason why she was happy when Dove approached her for the ad. She says she “jumped” at the opportunity.
“Having the opportunity to represent my dark-skinned sisters in a global beauty brand felt like the perfect way for me to remind the world that we are here, we are beautiful, and more importantly, we are valued,” wrote Ogunyemi.
However, Ogunyemi found out that her image wasn’t used to celebrate diverse skin types. Instead, she found she’d been the “unwitting poster child for racist advertising.”
“If you Google “racist ad” right now, a picture of my face is the first result. I had been excited to be a part of the commercial and promote the strength and beauty of my race, so for it to be met with widespread outrage was upsetting,” she shared.
But she doesn’t think that was Dove’s intention. She says the experience she had with the team was positive; if it hadn’t been, then she would have walked off set.
“All of the women in the shoot understood the concept and overarching objective—to use our differences to highlight the fact that all skin deserves gentleness,” explained Ogunyemi.
She says, even after she saw the ad, it didn’t strike her as racist. Instead, it filled her with pride.
“Then the first Facebook ad was released: a 13-second video clip featuring me, a white woman, and an Asian woman removing our nude tops and changing into each other. I loved it. My friends and family loved it. People congratulated me for being the first to appear, for looking fabulous, and for representing Black Girl Magic.”
Later, a full 30-second ad appeared on TV. Ogunyemi says she was still excited. She was the first model to appear in the ad, and it featured her describing her skin as “20% dry, 80% glowing.”
“I think the full TV edit does a much better job of making the campaign’s message loud and clear,” added Ogunyemi.
Ogunyemi says she agrees that marketers need to look below the surface to see the implication of their ad. She also says she can see how the snapshots circulating online can be misinterpreted.
“There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage. Having said that, I can also see that a lot has been left out. The narrative has been written without giving consumers context on which to base an informed opinion.”
Ogunyemi concluded by saying that she agrees with Dove’s decision to apologize, but she wishes they would have defended their creative vision. A vision she doesn’t think their intentions were bad.
“[T]hey could have also defended their creative vision, and their choice to include me, an unequivocally dark-skinned black woman, as a face of their campaign. I am not just some silent victim of a mistaken beauty campaign. I am strong, I am beautiful, and I will not be erased.”
Do you think the Dove ad was offensive? Let us know in the comments. In other news, Princess Kate stepped out for the first time since August 30th. See the first pictures of her baby bump.